Album review: Hypnopompia – Parallel (2021)
Hypnopompia’s just-released album Parallel is post-rock bolstered with jazz and psyche and put together with a prog sensibility, and should therefore be of interest to the ProgBlog readership. Hypnopompia is multi-instrumentalist Dave Alexander, a former Electrical Engineering grad student at Penn State University, where the project was conceived. During his time in State College he was a member of indie rock outfit Lenina Crowne (2016 – 2019), playing saxophone and keyboards. The band played a few hundred shows around State College and briefly toured the Northeast US, and also released the album Everyone Belongs to Everyone Else which included compositions by Alexander. Alexander subsequently relocated to Dayton, Ohio and began recording Parallel, his debut solo album, under the moniker of Hypnopompia.
Hypnopompia is the state of consciousness leading out of sleep, a term coined by the spiritualist Frederick Myers, where sleepers wake confused or speak without making sense, a state in which emotional dreaming cognition tries to make sense of the rational real world. On Parallel, Alexander explores themes of mental health and interpersonal strife through the lens of dreamy, melancholy, explorative soundscapes, drawing influences from 70s progressive rock acts like Yes, contemporary psychedelic rock acts like The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala, vintage electronica/trip-hop in the mould of Boards of Canada, and modern jazz as expressed by BADBADNOTGOOD.
Largely a genuine solo effort, Parallel does feature some guest guitarists but it was self-recorded and self-mixed, with mastering by Brian Lucey who has worked with major recording artists including Sigur Ros from the post-rock world, but is equally happy to work on bedroom music projects.
While I’m Sleeping mixes bleak soundscape washes, melodic sax soloing and knotty guitar patterns; The Long Way Home is a short trip-hop track with a piano figure and more saxophone; U.F.O. hints at the phenomenon of hypnopompia and channels early psychedelia or space rock, punctuated with trip-hop breaks; Scanning begins bleakly but then takes up a modified and more up-tempo rhythmic element of U.F.O. and samples a supermarket self-service checkout machine instructing you to ‘move your bananas to the basket’; I’m On Your Side is guitar driven, and is perhaps the least interesting of the tracks despite a pleasant smooth jazz sax solo; June Gloom is a short, sedate guitar-driven instrumental with jazzy soloing; and title track Parallel is an 11’34 epic, opening with cinematic washes under David Gilmour-like guitar and snatches of dialogue from Ray Bradbury’s short story Kaleidoscope, this is a well constructed piece with intelligent build-up, development and layering.
Parallel can be bought here: https://hypnopompiamusic.bandcamp.com/album/parallel
While I’m Sleeping https://youtu.be/A-YzwIdlJEs